Researchers from CAM-SUST, the Copernicus Astronomical Memorial of the SUST (Shahjalal University of Science and Technology), have identified a preliminary asteroid by analyzing raw space images provided by NASA. Small stone-like objects orbiting the sun are generally known as asteroids. Their size range can be from small dust particles to 600 miles in diameter. Typically, these are found in the asteroid belt between orbits of Mars and Jupiter. However, there are also some asteroids on either side of Jupiter, which are called principal asteroids.
Recently, a group of young researchers from CAM-SUST conducted preliminary asteroid identification through image analysis in a campaign sponsored by NASA,. They received recognition from NASA for their efforts. All of them are students at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. K. M. Shariat Ullah, studying in the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department in SUST, led the research team. Other team members included Samiul Islam Mugdha, Sadiya Tasnim Mim, Chanchal Roy, and Kazi Nusrat Tasnim. They participated in a campaign organized by the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) in collaboration with NASA and Pan-STARRS.
Shariat Ullah explained that NASA sent them some images for analysis. They used an astronomy software called Astronomica to analyze these images. In this way, they were able to identify preliminary asteroids. The results will be sent to NASA for further confirmation. Preliminary asteroids identified by citizen scientists like Shariat Ullah will be confirmed by NASA whether it is an asteroid or not in the next five to six years using the Pan-STARRS telescope.
Shariatullah says, “In this campaign, initially, many images are provided. Around 12 photos were given to us. The first image is mainly for practice. From that test image, the results of our analysis are submitted to the IASC campaign. If it is successfully passed, the actual image is provided for further analysis.”
CAM-SUST, the Copernicus Astronomical Memorial of SUST, has been involved in astronomy education and outreach since its establishment in 2012. In 2018, Team OLYK, affiliated with CAM-SUST, was the first in the world to participate in the NASA Space Challenge. They are continuing their research through collaborations and recently worked on a technical paper on an active galactic nucleus.
Why is asteroid identification so important? NASA organizes such campaigns because these asteroids often pose a threat to Earth. Small-sized asteroids may not be problematic, but if a large one hits Earth, the consequences will not be favorable. It is believed that the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by the impact of such an asteroid. There are many such asteroids in the region between Mars and Jupiter, and the number is even higher around Mars and Jupiter. NASA aims to make the study of astronomy accessible to ordinary citizens worldwide through programs like these. The IASC campaign, hosted by NASA, takes place every few months. Those interested can join the campaign by visiting their website.
This article is based on an interview published in YouTube by Sujoy Kumar Das.